MidStream Makes Integration Strides

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The video-server market — shared by Concurrent Computer Corp., SeaChange International Inc. and nCUBE Corp. — is getting another player: MidStream Technologies.

The company recently announced that it has completed interoperability testing on the Interactive Services Architecture developed by Time Warner Cable. MidStream also hired two key executives: Bailey Shewchuk as vice president of sales and sales support and Gregg Blodgett as chief financial officer.

Shewchuk will lead Midstream's sales effort for its IP2160 video-server architecture, touted as the first video server built specifically for video-on-demand, subscription-VOD and free-on-demand applications.

The IP2160 features up to 2 gigabits of throughput from a single server unit, or about 425 to 480 simultaneous streams, the company said. Each server contains about one terabyte of storage.

Scalable architecture

But MidStream's key selling point is a scalable, flexible and cost-efficient architecture that can integrate with existing legacy server deployments, according to president and CEO Ed Huguez. "We work with any complementary technology, any software, in any headend," Huguez said.

MidStream launched its product at this year's National Show, and announced in August that it had raised $26 million. "We've met all top 10 operators and engaged in a variety of lab and field trials," Huguez said. "We're expecting we'll have deployments relatively shortly."

Although Midtsream tested its product at an undisclosed location under the ISA rubric, the company's technology has been integrated with other vendor's products and MSO VOD platforms. "Other MSOs have embraced ISA to one degree or another," he said.

The open architecture that's being proposed by various MSOs and other vendors "is the right thing for the industry," he said. That means an MSO could place a MidStream server beside a Concurrent, SeaChange or nCube server in the same headend.

And why would an MSO do that? "You believe a second server is more scalable, more flexible and more cost effective approach," Huguez said.

Midstream uses VOD-built-from-scratch processors supplied by Xylinx — which also invested in the company. "Rather than take general purpose processors and refining them for this environment, we built a new set of processors that work specifically for this asset," Huguez said.

Driving Down Costs

That will drive the cost per stream down to $115 — lower than other vendors in the market — Huguez said.

The IP2160 also features either asynchronous serial interface (ASI) and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Some MSOs are sprinkling in GigE transport into ASI systems as VOD architecture evolves.

"The key to the architecture is the flexibility," Huguez said. "Nothing stands still. It can work in multiple environments and different topologies. It doesn't matter if it's centralized or decentralized. It doesn't matter if there are multiple vendors. It doesn't matter if its ASI or GigE."

Huguez also said the server is designed to handle Moving Picture Expert Group's MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, Internet protocol and even output and transport of media player content from Microsoft Corp., Real Networks Inc. and Apple Corp. That can all be done without removing servers from the field. The unit also can encrypt each stream coming from the server, which is important to Hollywood studios, Huguez said.

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